Montana Gov. asks USFS to focus restoration on 5.1M acres

Article from The Missoulian today, below….

Here’s the relevant language from the Farm Bill:

INITIAL AREAS.—Not later than 60 days after the date of enactment of the Agricultural Act of 2014, the Secretary shall, if requested by the Governor of the State, designate as part of an insect and disease treatment program 1 or more landscape scale areas, such as subwatersheds (sixth-level hydrologic units, according to the System of Hydrologic Unit Codes of the United States Geological Survey), in at least 1 national forest in each State that is experiencing an insect or disease epidemic.

Have other governors requested designations?

 

Bullock asks U.S. Forest Service to focus restoration on 5.1M acres in state

By Rob Chaney

Gov. Steve Bullock has asked the U.S. Forest Service to concentrate its restoration efforts on 5.1 million acres of timberland local advocates believe are most at risk from insect damage in the next 15 years.

A provision in the recently passed federal farm bill asked governors across the nation to advise the Forest Service on priority landscapes where they’d like the agency to focus its management efforts.

Montana State Forester Bob Harrington said Bullock’s choices reflected long-standing local interests.

“We want to reward those collaboratives that came together to compromise and agree on projects,” Harrington said Monday. “This is a way to restore and prepare landscapes for what we know is coming in the future.”

But while the farm bill gave governors the authority to prioritize these areas, it did not provide any funding for work to be done.

“There’s no new money to implement these titles,” Harrington said. “That will be a big part of the discussion, because without funding to conduct analysis and have staff on the ground, we’re not going to make a lot of progress. But this helps with reprioritizing the (Forest Service) budget and workload to refocus priority on some of these landscapes. I hope we can use the momentum behind the farm bill to build partnerships with the states and Forest Service. There’s huge potential, and it would be good to have funding follow.”

Work would range from hazardous fuels removal to commercial logging. It would also include habitat restoration, road repair or removal, fisheries improvements and recreation facilities. The lands chosen either have serious bug infestations, are at risk of infestation or have hazardous fire conditions threatening residential areas or infrastructure.

Bullock nominated priority lands in the Lolo, Bitterroot, Flathead, Helena-Lewis and Clark, Kootenai, Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Custer-Gallatin national forests. His suggestions ranged from 54 percent of the Lolo’s 2.1 million acres to 12 percent of the Custer-Gallatin’s 2.9 million acres.

“With these nominations I want to prioritize and focus the efforts of the USDA Forest Service to create jobs by increasing both the pace and scale of forest restoration, and strengthen the role of local citizen collaboratives in those efforts,” Bullock said in a letter to Forest Service associate deputy chief Tony Tooke. “My proposals do not include any areas such as recommended wilderness, wilderness study areas, or wilderness designated by Congress.”

Bullock did include some acres of federal inventoried roadless lands in the Helena and Gallatin-Custer national forests he said were threatened by high wildfire risk and were near homes or municipal watersheds.

Harrington said the governor relied on local collaborative groups and lumber mills to suggest priority landscapes. In the Lolo National Forest, that included the Southwest Crown of the Continent Collaborative, Lolo Forest Restoration Committee, Mineral and Sanders county resource advisory committees, Tricon Timber Co., Thompson River Lumber Co., Roseburg Forest Products and Pyramid Mountain Lumber.

8 Comments

  1. Hello Steve, Thanks for posting the Missoulian’s one-sided article.

    Keep in mind that what Governor Bullock has just done, with the blessing of the timber industry and “collaborators” like Montana Trout Unlimited and Greater Yellowstone Coalition, is nominated pretty much all forested acres of these National Forests outside of designated Wilderness and a few roadless areas for more logging. 



    The public should also be aware that the map provided by Gov Bullock and reprinted by the media is very misleading when it states: “% of total forest land base considered for Priority Landscape Designation.”

    That means it’s the % of the TOTAL acres of the National Forest…..NOT the % of the total FORESTED acres of each National Forest.


    Here’s a link to a chart from the Forest Service demonstrating the fact that as of Sept 2013 there was 216.9 MMBF of National Forest timber “under contract” in Montana, but uncut. 

This info directly from the Forest Service counters the timber industry and political rhetoric pushing for more taxpayer subsidized national forest logging:



    What does that 216.9 MMBF of timber “under contract” but uncut look like?

 It would require 43,380 logging trucks to haul that amount of timber. If lined up end-to-end those 43,380 logging trucks would stretch for approximately 370 miles, or roughly from St. Regis, Montana to Billings, MT along I-90.

    

Here’s something else to consider. The recently passed Farm Bill also included Sec 8204.

    This section of the Farm Bill would repeal the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to allow an unlimited amount of logging projects up to 3,000 acres in size to be implemented on National Forests without full environmental analysis of harmful effects to water quality, wildlife or rare, threatened or endangered species. It would also eliminate administrative appeals on these logging projects, thereby eliminating meaningful and full public participation in these forest management decisions.

    Here’s some more timber sale program information directly from the U.S. Forest Service (which has been presented on this blog previously), again countering the timber industry and political rhetoric pushing for more taxpayer subsidized national forest logging:



    It would be very helpful to the general public who owns these public lands if the media would do a better job of telling the whole story, instead of just reprinting rhetoric from politicians and the timber industry demanding more public land logging. Ask yourself, why would the news media, timber industry and politicians like Gov Bullock, Sen Tester, Sen Walsh and Rep Daines keep this critical information from the public? While the news media might just be overworked, or lazy, one has to assume the politicians and timber industry have other motives.

    • You’re welcome, Matthew. FWIW, here’s a summary of appeals and litigation under the HFRA, from Red Lodge Clearinghouse. These rules now apply to the projects authorized by the Farm Bill.

      Controversies: Appeals and Litigation

      One of the most controversial parts of the HFRA changed the way in which people can object to specific fuels reduction projects. The law required the Forest Service to create a “predecisional administrative review process.” The Forest Service interim final rule , published and effective in January 2004, exempts hazardous fuel reduction projects from the agency’s existing administrative appeal procedures (the part 215 rules) and establishes a separate review procedure (part 218 rules). This procedure allows people to object to projects earlier than they used to, but it limits who, when and how objections can be made and how the agency reviews them.

      Only individuals and organizations who have submitted specific written comments during NEPA public comment periods for the proposed project may file an objection to the project.
      Objectors have 30 days to file objections;
      Objectors must go through the administrative review process (exhaust their administrative remedies) before going to federal court;
      Judicial review of projects will generally be limited to issues raised during the objection process.
      Only in rare circumstances, can someone sue the Forest Service without going through the administrative review process. For example, someone who has not used the new administrative process can try to halt a project in court if significant new information about the project becomes available after conclusion of the administrative review.

      For more information on the Forest Service’s existing administrative review processes, go to National Forest Management: Process Essentials: Administrative Review.

      Montana’s Bitterroot Forest faced a lawsuit upon releasing its first HFRA project in 2006, the Middle East Fork Hazardous Fuel Reduction Project. On November 6, 2008, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the project, rejecting challenges from two environmental groups.

  2. Matthew, Talk about confusing the issue and setting fire to straw people. Volume under contract and uncut is just that. It has nothing to do with the need for managing
    the resource. In R-1 it amounts to less than a 2 year supply of wood for those mills who have F.S. wood under contract and includes wood that is seasonably unavailable. It would seem like a prudent backlog to ensure an evenflow of forest products. More to the point would a discussion of the fact that in the interior west the Forest Service harvests 5% of the annual growth from its non-reserved timberlands, while 84% of the growth dies. You have never commented on these stats.

    • Mac

      Others of us have pointed this out to him but he likes large numbers so he uses the number of trucks instead of pertinent information that puts things in perspective. To my knowledge, he has never acknowledged facts like these that don’t support his point of view.

      Just the facts.

      • Yep, I wonder how many miles of log trucks, placed end to end, could be filled with needless forest mortality, from opponents of sound forest management. *smirk* BTW, is it wrong to be holding on to those sold timber sales, waiting for demand and prices to rise? Is it wrong if more money is made off the same amount of timber? How many miles of bus loads of people with forest jobs would there be, if those buses were placed end to end, if more forestry was practiced in Montana? American taxpayers want to know!

        • I think the answer is 2312 miles, Larry, from Wisconsin to Kalamazoo with only occasional rest stops. Also, it depends on the bus manufacturer. Can you imagine that long line of buses?! (I really can’t, either.)

          British double-decker buses would only stretch from Boise to Platte City, but would be more colorful and maybe a better illustration for that reason. Still, everyone would be able to afford their own ticket, so there’s that, too.

        • LarryH

          An extremely important consideration, that I didn’t see discussed, is the fact that these timber contracts generally (or at least they were when I was involved) are for a minimum of 18months and up to even 5 years because you just can’t grab a chain saw, loader, trucks and high lead system and start logging on the day that the contract is signed? It takes preparation before the first log is cut and then there are the unexpected environmental (including fire and wet season limitations) and operational and market considerations that can interrupt a logging job. The long contracts and subsequent 2 years of uncut inventory under contract allow the buyers to keep from paying for timber that they can’t cut which would put them out of business.

          • Being a former Timber Sale Administrator and Harvest Inspector, I know about that stuff. I had one timber sale that was so old, the documents had faded and you couldn’t tell what was written. It was an extremely odd situation, where parts of it burned, and the logger cut their marked trees by species, playing up the changes in log values. I had to wander through tractor and helicopter units, looking for bits of blue paint on trees marked 12 years before. They left the sugar pines and incense cedars for last, since they were species that were “bid-up”, so they could get the white fir and yellow pines really cheap. Extensions can be granted on timber sales but, rates are adjusted, so they can’t “game the system”. Regarding limitations, we also have “Limited Operating Periods”, during nesting season. These LOP’s have been extended, lasting into late August, now. That makes for a much smaller window to get work completed in. Another good reason to keep contracts open is the chance that bark beetles kill significant amounts of trees, which the purchaser is entitled to, without having to go through NEPA. We had a number of those back in the early 90’s. I was a Harvest Inspector on 13 different timber sales, cutting salvage trees, during 1992.

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